Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Joint press conference with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security, Melbourne


Subjects: Airport security; GST; US Embassy in Jerusalem; Electoral donation laws; Commonwealth Games athletes; Australian Border Force incident; Foreign interference.


Good morning and thank you Lyell for welcoming us to Melbourne Airport.

I'm here with the Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton and the Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor.

Now, the greatest responsibility on Government is to keep Australians safe.

That's our commitment and because we have a strong economy, we are able to provide additional support to the AFP and to support airport security around Australia.

We've seen some of the new security measures here in terms of scanning passengers' luggage, in terms of scanning passengers. We're providing, as Peter will explain, support for airports around the country, particularly regional airports that are not able to fund the additional security out of their own resources in the way that a big airport operation like Melbourne is able to do.

We're also providing additional resources to the Australian Federal Police counter-terrorism effort here at the airport. Because we have to recognise that the terrorist threat is not diminished.

Yes, we have been able to reduce ISIL's so-called caliphate to just a relatively small amount of territory in the Middle East. Their caliphate, which they claim to have, which they used as a great propaganda tool, has been largely rolled up. But the threat remains. It remains at home and it remains in our region.

The shocking, cowardly, brutal attacks in Surabaya over the last 24 hours, reminds us of the absolutely inhumane nature of the terrorist threat that we face and reminds us of the need to be ever vigilant.

There is no place for "set and forget" in defending Australia and keeping Australians safe.

So whether it is ensuring we have the best technology at our airports, whether it's ensuring that we have the best intelligence both at home and in working with our neighbours and supporting the people of Indonesia in their efforts against terrorism - and we do - we have a very strong relationship with Indonesia.

Once again, I want to say how much we appreciate the leadership of President Jokowi as he stands up to those terrorists who are seeking to undo the great tradition of Indonesia, which has always been, as Jokowi said, able to demonstrate that Islam is compatible with democracy and moderation.

We have to keep Australians safe at home. We have to work with our neighbours to ensure that we defeat terrorism, whether it's in Indonesia or whether it's in the Philippines. But we have to make sure we have the resources here, right here at home.

This equipment is going to be a big part of it. The additional resources the AFP will have will also be very important.

Keeping Australians safe is one of the essential obligations of government, the most important obligation and thanks to the strong economy, as demonstrated in the Budget, which has been supported by our economic plan, we're able to bring $294 million of additional funding to keep Australians safe.

I'll now ask the Minister for Home Affairs to speak in some more detail about the measures we're supporting here.


Prime Minister, thank you very much. I'm very pleased to be here with the Prime Minister and with Angus Taylor today. Can I say thank you very much to Melbourne Airport.

We're here in Terminal 4 which is really a world-leading demonstration of security. The design is obviously able to meet the current threats that we face.

This is not the first investment that our Government has made in relation to keeping people safe, as they travel domestically or internationally. We've stood up counter-terrorism unit officers at our international airports, because we want to deal with the reality of that threat, both inbound and outbound and they have provided significant support to the CT effort over the course of the last couple of years.

But this is a $294 million investment, possible, as the Prime Minister points out, only because of the Government's good management of the economy and of the Budget and we make these investments because we want to keep Australians safe.

In July of last year, we know that there was an attempt to take an explosive device onto an A380, on an Etihad flight out of Sydney. Now had that been successful, hundreds of people would've of course, lost their lives. But it would have an enormous impact on the psyche of the Australian travelling public as well as a multi-billion dollar impact on our brand, on international students, on tourism et cetera.

So given that we are such a significant country, we need to make sure that people travel safely and the increased technology as we're seeing here demonstrated today, provides us with really, the world's best technology in CT X-ray, both of passengers and also of luggage.

Because we are worried about gels, we're worried about liquids, we're worried about explosive devices in different forms being taken onto aircraft.

This investment provides support not only for that, but as Angus will speak about in a moment, for our AFP, not only at the major airports, but also at 13 regional airports, where we'll provide support for capital expenditure to purchase the equipment at those regional airports.

This is the most comprehensive investment in aviation security in decades. As the Prime Minister points out, it meets our responsibility to keep the Australian public as safe as we possibly can.


Thanks Peter and it's great to be here with the Prime Minister and with Minister Dutton, talking about how we keep Australians safe and secure as they travel for work, or to visit family or friends, or just to go on holidays.

Of course, we are very focused on keeping Australians safe, as they travel. At the heart of that is the role of the Australian Federal Police.

The Australian Federal Police provide community policing as well as counter-terrorism first response at our major airports around Australia.

Because of our ability to fund important initiatives in the Budget, we're committing over $100 million as part of this initiative to 190 new personnel across those major airports, AFP personnel.

Now 140 of those will be AFP officers focused on terrorism first response, as well as having been trained in IED - improvised explosive device - appraisal and detection.

The 50 other supporting AFP employees will be focused on intelligence gathering and appraisal of that intelligence. In combination with that 190 new AFP personnel will provide more safety, more security for Australians as they travel, knowing with great confidence that as they travel around Australia, the AFP has their back and that Australians will be kept safe in our airports.


Thanks Angus.

So, do we have some questions?


Yes, Mr Turnbull, when will the Government release the Productivity Commission report on the GST?


Well, it will be released soon, you can expect it to be released in weeks, rather than months.

But the first thing to do is to study it carefully and obviously, the Treasurer will be consulting with his state counterparts as well.

But it's only just been received and we'll be going through it very carefully first.


Can you categorically rule out an election this year?


The election will be next year.


Tony Abbott has said that Australia should follow American and move our Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as well, do you agree with him?


No, our Embassy will remain where it is and where it has been since it was established. We've got no plans to move our Embassy.




Well because we have taken the view - as indeed, most countries have - that it's more conducive to the peace process to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv. Obviously, the status of Jerusalem and negotiations relating to Jerusalem are a key part of the peace negotiations, which we wish the very best for and which we support.


Why is the federal Attorney-General challenging Queensland's electoral donation disclosure laws?


What we're seeking to do is to ensure that the laws which apply to donations for the purpose of federal elections, are the laws of the Commonwealth of Australia, as is consistent with the Constitution.


[Inaudible question]


Well, look, it's very impressive and the ability to, the body scanning, I think we have probably all been through them in international airports and seen that before. But that 3D imaging of baggage was extraordinary. And that gives real enhanced capability to the airports and to our security at airports to keep Australians safe.

And it's obviously going to be a very big deterrent to those people who would seek to do us harm. And you know, we have to recognise the threat is very real.

Peter spoke about the attempt, or the plot to put a bomb on an Etihad flight last year out of Sydney. We do live in dangerous times. The threat from terrorism is very real. And while our security forces and intelligence agencies and police have disrupted and thwarted 14 terrorist plots, we cannot ever be complacent. There's no place for set and forget when it comes to national security.


Prime Minister How can you justify to the Australian public allowing the police the ability to demand identity checks without satisfying grounds and what checks do you have in place to stop it being abused?


Well, the justification for changing the laws so that police at an airport can ask you for your, to identify yourself, the justification is the safety of the Australian people.


Do you have any thoughts on former Ambassador to China, Geoff Raby calling for Julie Bishop to resign?


I was disappointed by that article. It's utterly wrong. Julie Bishop is doing an outstanding job.

Every time she goes out on the world stage, she makes Australians proud. She is a formidable foreign minister, a great diplomat and a great colleague.


I have a question for Minister Dutton.

Can you comment on reports that some of the athletes from Africa who disappeared during the Comm Games are in Sydney and planning to seek bridging visas?


I might just add to the Prime Minister's answer on police powers. I think an important thing to remember, as we have seen in Europe and elsewhere, airports are a target for terrorists. There's no question about that.

For whatever reason, aircraft and the imagery associated with people travelling, of coming and going in big numbers, as they do from airports, means the airport precinct is quite different from other settings. And we want to make sure that people can come and go from airports, not just flying on the aircraft itself, but come and go through car parks, through screening points, when people are held at peak hours in the forecourts of airports and what not, we want that to be a safe precinct. That's what distinguishes it from many other aspects of places of mass gathering. So I just make that additional point.

As I've said in relation to people who have travelled to Australia on visas associated with the Commonwealth Games. People have conditions of those visas to meet, if they breach those conditions, than they're subject to enforcement action. And I would say to anyone that is outside of the conditions of their visa, associated with the Commonwealth Games, to make contact with the Australian Border Force so arrangements can be made for that person to be returned back to their country-of-origin. If people have claims to make, or they've got submissions to put to the department, then we'll consider all of that in due course.

But if people have breached their visa conditions, like anyone else, they're expected to operate within the law, and enforcement action will take place to identify those people and to deport them if they don't self-declare.


What do you know about the allegations that someone entered Border Force HQ in Melbourne with guns?


Look I am advised that there was an incident yesterday at the Australian Border Force in Melbourne where on the advice available to me, a person that wasn't a client of the Australian Border Force entered into the foyer of the ABF facility there. And that there was an incident then that the Victorian Police responded to. As I understand it, the person was taken into custody and charges have been laid against that person. I will let Victorian Police comment on it further.


[Inaudible question]


There's certain conditions that need to be met at the moment before police can ask for that identification. Which is an absurdity and it's an issue that the police have raised with us. So we're addressing an anomaly and a deficiency in the law at the moment. There are two elements in it. One is in relation to requests for identification, if somebody is within the airport precinct, and the ability to move somebody on from an airport precinct, if it's believed they're involved in certain criminal activities. So that's essentially the two elements of it.


[Inaudible] Hillary Clinton said on the ABC 7.30 Report last night that Australia should be concerned about Russian and Chinese influence here?


Well yeah sure look, we are determined to ensure that Australia's elections, Australia's political and public processes, are determined by Australians. Very simple. It's our country.

What we have done is introduced into the Parliament legislation to make that clear, to ensure that where foreigners seek to influence public debate here, it is done so openly and transparently. And that foreign interference is prevented in the sense of covert interference. It is our country, it is our democracy, Australians should be the ones that are making the decisions and influencing the decision-makers, whether it's at the ballot box or in you know, seeking to influence parliamentarians through any means. So it's just - this is just a question of ensuring that Australia, Australia's democracy is governed by, determined by, influenced by, Australians.


Do we know whether it is going to be a slower process for airport security or faster to get through airport security?


Well, Lyell was saying that in some respects, the process will be faster, actually. So this is obviously the airports, everyone wants to get through all of these security checks swiftly, but they also want to get through safely. So, you know, they want to get to the gate sooner, but they want to make sure they get there safely. And so what this does is ensure that that safety, using the latest technology, enables you to achieve both.

I think it's a great credit to Melbourne Airport in demonstrating this cutting edge technology here today.

So thank you all very much.